Who’s your Madadi?

We haven’t followed up on the story involving the Qatari diplomat who touched off a serious bomb scare this week on a United Airlines flight from Washington to Denver. The diplomat touched off the bomb scare by smoking a pipe in the plane’s bathroom. When asked about the smell of smoke, he asserted that he had been trying to light his shoes, alluding to shoe bomber Richard Reid. He refused to turn over his lighter to the attendant questioning him about the smell of smoke and was apprehended by Federal Air Marshals on board the flight.
The diplomat’s name is Mohammed al-Madadi. Someone’s rules of profiling might place a premium on passengers whose first or last name are a variant of Muhammad, but federal authorities are undoubtedly more enlightened. The Washington Post nevertheless conveys the concerns of Arab and Muslim diplomats. The Post reports the thought of “many” Arab and Muslim diplomats “that profiling was involved, and that the situation would not have gone so far if Madadi were not Arab.” A Swede, they say, would have been given a pass (despite, one hastens to add, the Swedes’ well-known association with air terrorism).
Madadi’s mission is also worthy of note. Madadi was going to meet Ali Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who is serving eight years in prison after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to support terrorism. Fox News assures us that such diplomatic visits are routine.
Fox News also describes Al-Marri as an imprisoned al Qaeda agent. How many of these guys do we have incarcerated in the United States? What countries are they from? Are diplomats from these countries in fact routinely meeting with them?
I’d like to see the support for the proposition that they are. I should think that might make a good story by itself. Perhaps the Post can follow up with those Arab and Muslim diplomats whom it canvassed to assess their feelings about Madadi’s apprehension.
Madadi flew back to Washington Thursday accompanied by Federal Air Marshals. He was not simply released from custody. One wonders what the authorities made of Madadi’s behavior.
At his State Department press briefing yesterday, P.J. Crowley pronounced himself satisfied that Qatar recognized the seriousness of the situation by recalling Madadi for reassignment. Crowley expressed his gratitude “that Qatar and the United States were able to resolve this rapidly.”
What a relief! It’s obviously not as serious as something like Israel’s authorization of the construction of additional housing for Jews in Jerusalem.
The Fox News account states that no explosives were found on the flight and that officials were satisfied that Madadi was not trying to hurt anyone. But might he have been probing airline security in the aftermath of Umar Abdulmutallab’s attempted bombing of the flight to Detroit this past Christmas? Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom just before he sought to ignite the explosives he was wearing.
Madadi is of course shielded from prosecution by diplomatic immunity. No comparable immunity attaches to the airline or to the federal authorities. CAIR has nevertheless not yet arrived on the scene, and Madadi has not yet threatened to sue United Airlines or the Federal Air Marshals for violating his civil rights. But all is not lost. Those Arab and Muslim diplomats whose concerns the Post conveys can take comfort in the meantime in the case of the flying imams.

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